Kenneth Snelson • Virlane Tower • 1981
The “discontinuous tension” nature of Snelson’s work may explain why it collapsed. Being a tall tower held together by such physics courts disaster when gail force winds roll in.
The work of Kenneth Snelson is really quite fascinating. On Grunch.net we learn about Kenneth Snelson’s work and relationship to R. Buckminster Fuller. Snelson’s work is primarily based on the principles of tensegrity. “His large scale constructs show how compression members can provide rigidity while remaining separate, not touching one another, held in stasis only by means of tensed wires.”
Snelson met Fuller at the Black Mountain College in 1948. Inspired by Fuller, he made his own experiments and discoveries of “discontinuous compression.” Returning to Black Mountain College he excitedly showed Fuller, only to pretty much have his innovations stolen. This appears the general case of those who shared ideas with R. Buckminster Fuller.
In addition to studying at Black Mountain, Snelson studied at the Chicago Institute of Design, and with Fernand Leger in Paris.
Kenneth Snelson's artist's statement is “My art is concerned with nature in its primary aspect, the patterns of physical forces in three dimensional space.” This calls to mind the late Al Held.
Another view of the illfated Snelson. Both images found on forums at Sculpture.net
Unlike contemporary artists who uselessly aestheticize science, such Matthew Ritchie, Keith Tyson, Mark Dion or Damien Hirst, Snelson has made contributions to both the arts AND the sciences. In addition to the engineering he uses in creating his sculptures, he has built up quite an impressive resume of contributions, such as his work with the atom:
- "A Design for the Atom," Industrial Design, Feb., 1963
Model for Atomic Forms, October, 1966, U.S. Patent #3,276,148
Model for Atomic Forms, July, 1978, U.S. Pat.#4,099,339
"Toward a Computer Generated Atom", pp 835-844, Conference Proceedings, National Computer Graphics Conference, '91
As an artist, he has shown with Marlborough and Laurence Miller in NYC, and Yoh Art Gallery in Osaka Japan. Some of the Public collections his work is in are:
- Albright-Knox Art Gallery
The Art Institute of Chicago
Australian National Gallery
Cleveland Museum of Art
Dallas Museum of Fine Arts
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Walker Art Center
The Met, MoMA, The Whitney
As well as in Australia, Germany and Japan
The artist’s website is a wealth of information on his artistic and scientific endeavors.